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Anthony Davis injury reportedly has Lakers thinking smaller trade at deadline

Kurt Helin and Corey Robinson preview the NBA's Christmas day schedule, featuring 76ers-Knicks, Lakers-Mavericks, Bucks-Celtics, Grizzlies, Warriors, and Suns-Nuggets.

Think small, Lakers fans.

Those Lakers are 1-2 since Anthony Davis went out with a still undescribed foot injury that is expected to keep him out a month or more. What that injury meant on the court — where the Lakers head to Dallas on Christmas Day to kick off a five-game road trip — was always going to impact the moves the Lakers made off the court as the trade deadline approaches.

The most likely impact is the Lakers go with smaller deals at the trade deadline to try and shore up this roster, according to Jovan Buha at The Athletic.

Davis’ injury has increased the probability that the only move the Lakers make is a smaller trade featuring, at most, one first-round pick, sources with knowledge of the Lakers’ plans told The Athletic. The one exception is if a star that can grow alongside Davis over the next few years becomes available.

But the most likely trade outcome, at this point, is some form of Patrick Beverley, Kendrick Nunn and either the 2027 or 2029 first-round pick (likely protected) for a 3-and-D wing or combo forward that fits well next Davis and James, those sources said.

There are a few reasons for this.

First, the big move isn’t there to make — there are no superstars, no All-NBA level players available via trade right now. There is no silver bullet trade that makes these Lakers a contender. Buzz around the league has linked the Lakers to DeMar DeRozan (who is the closest thing to a superstar mentioned in legitimate trade rumors), but the Bulls have not made him available and are not expected to in the short term, that is more of an offseason/summer move. (There has been speculation about Zach LaVine wanting to come to the Lakers, he is a Klutch client after all, but the Bulls are not considering moving him unless he demands a trade, and maybe not even then.) Any superstar movement is likely around the draft at the earliest.

Second, the Lakers’ slow start combined with Davis’ injury limits how far up the standings they are likely to climb even with a trade. Put bluntly, the Lakers’ front office shouldn’t throw good money after bad. This season is what it is, the Lakers are 13-18 and outside even the play-in right now, and while one could say they are just 4.5 games out of the No.6 seed it’s unlikely the Lakers make up that ground. Especially with Davis out. If the Lakers only are climbing their way up to the play-in, why waste trade assets now or take on future salary? Wait for a better move this summer.

Third, the combination of Beverley, Nunn and a pick will only net a rotation player, not a dramatic difference maker, especially if the Lakers aren’t taking on future salary. For example, while the best player the Lakers could potentially net with Beverly/Nunn/pick is the Pistons’ Bojan Bogdanovic, but he has a two-year, $39 million extension that kicks in next season and would eat up a lot of the Lakers cap space in coming years. Buha at the Athletic listed these names as more likely trade targets: Jae Crowder, Eric Gordon, Alec Burks, Terry Rozier, P.J. Washington, Kelly Oubre Jr., Josh Richardson and Jakob Poeltl. There also is talk of Cam Reddish of the Knicks (who Rob Pelinka has liked for a while). All nice players who help with depth but are not moving the needle.

That’s where the Lakers are. It likely doesn’t make LeBron James happy — when he signed his extension the Lakers’ front office reportedly promised to make significant upgrades around him. They didn’t, and here we are. The front office has done little, and that is showing up on the court.

This trade deadline is not going to solve all that.